Bottom Dogs: Josesito Lopez TKO 9 Victor Ortiz, Lucas Matthysse TKO 5 Humberto Soto

****

For Victor Ortiz, winning was supposed to be a mere formality, as it usually is in a sport where the results seem preordained. Ortiz was already penciled in as the opponent for Golden Boy’s prized asset, Saul Alvarez, in a much discussed September pay-per-view, but plans were scuttled when Ortiz proved second best to an unheralded and ultimately more resilient Josesito Lopez at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, last night.

The finish–unexpected if not altogether shocking, given the mercurial career of the unpredictable Ortiz–came at the end of nine punishing rounds, when a broken jaw forced the 25-year-old to call it a night. Ortiz, who seemed to take his previous defeat, a bizarre knockout at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, with a mere shrug and a grin, clearly felt the emotional sting this time. Perhaps it was the big payday slipping from his grasp, or maybe, finally, he realized that life in the ring would remain forever unforgiving.

It was a lively affair from the start, with both fighters having their moments in an entertaining opening session. First it was Ortiz, forcing his smaller opponent back with heavy combinations, though the underdog was quick to answer back, and surprisingly inflicting the most damage of the opening round when he caught Ortiz, 29-4-2 (22), with a heavy left hook moments before the bell.

The second frame featured more of the same back-and-forth action, as did the third, with Ortiz forcing the issue at times and scoring with hard left hands, only to see Lopez, 30-4-0-1(18), storm back with clean left hooks and rights. Before the fight, the feeling was that Ortiz would be too strong for Lopez, normally a junior welterweight, though in these early rounds, Lopez managed to take the fire well. When the going did get uncomfortable, he cleverly tied up his more muscled foe.

Lopez, Riverside, California, was forced to hold more in the fourth round, with the power of Ortiz perhaps starting to tell, and the pattern continued into fifth, when the underdog was caught with a hard uppercut in close. A clinch immediately followed, and in a moment of frustration, Ortiz lost his composure–and the advantage–when he smacked his unsteady foe in the back of the head with a foolish right hand.

Lopez, dropped by the blow, met with the ringside physician while he gathered his senses, and, after taking a couple of much needed minutes to recover, came back in a fiery manner. Ortiz reacted in kind, and the last minute of the round saw both fighters letting their hands go before the appreciative Staples Center crowd. More give-and-take action followed in the sixth, with Lopez having the better of the early going, only for Ortiz to respond strongly.

The pace slowed somewhat to start the seventh, though the action picked up half way through the round, with Ortiz driving Lopez into the ropes. For an instant, Ortiz, 25, backed off, and in the defining moment of the contest, Lopez confidently gestured for his foe to bring it on. Ortiz was willing and paid the price, with Lopez driving the favored man back, before landing a heavy hook, right hand, combination. The blows changed the tenor of the fight–and perhaps the career of Victor Ortiz–as he backed up quickly, avoiding exchanges for the remainder of the round. Upon sitting down on his stool, he whispered something to trainer Danny Garcia, presumably that his jaw had just been injured.

The eighth saw Ortiz using his jab to try and buy time and score points. Lopez countered well, landing a couple of sharp uppercuts. Unlike the earlier rounds, it was Ortiz looking to hold this time. In the corner between rounds, Garcia tried to lift his fighter’s confidence, telling him that he was doing well, and Ortiz, despite the injury, came back for another go, though once more he appeared uneasy about initiating exchanges. With seconds ticking away in the ninth, Ortiz made a play to steal the round only for Lopez, playing a bit of cat and mouse, to blast away off the ropes. A couple of clean counters had Ortiz backing away warily, and when the bell rang, Lopez, 25, was on the chase. It was the final action of what was an absorbing and spirited contest.

Lopez, small for a welterweight, will certainly not be fighting Saul Alvarez on September 15th, although his options are far brighter now than they were a day ago. A move back down to 140 pounds might be the wisest path, and given what he showed–a tremendous will and a sturdy chin–he could prove a handful to the junior-welterweight elite.

Where this leaves the planned September pay-per-view is anyone’s guess.  Perhaps James Kirkland could be persuaded to reconsider accepting the date, and if healthy, a few more dollars might just make it worth his while.  Golden Boy also promotes Erislandy Lara, but it appears they don’t feel fully comfortable in putting Alvarez up against the Cuban’s skills just yet.  There’s also Carlos Molina, who has made his desire to square off against Alvarez quite clear, though with a tricky style, he more than likely won’t be hearing his phone ring.

****

In the co-feature, Lucas Matthysse, 31-2-0-1 (29), was just too strong for a game Humberto Soto, finishing the classy Mexican with a series of power shots in the waning seconds of the fifth round. The matchup featured a perfect mesh of styles, with Soto’s precise skills going up against the heavy-handed pressure of the naturally bigger Argentinean.

Early on, the edge in technique was the difference for Soto, as he circled away, picking his spots to beat Matthysse to the punch and score with accurate combinations. Despite being outgunned, there was nothing powder-puff about Soto’s work. Still, Soto, now 58-8-2-1 (34), never succeeded in dissuading his foe’s steady pressure. Little by little, Matthysse managed to close the gap and dig away, and Soto found himself on the canvas a split second after the bell rang to end the second session. Referee Raul Caiz signaled that there was no knockdown, though it was a clear sign that when Matthysse got close, he would do damage.

The third saw Matthysse walk through Soto’s best work, as he closed the distance with more regularity, driving Soto against the ropes, while banging heavy hooks to the body, and thudding right hands upstairs. The fourth was more of the same, with the steam slowly going from Soto’s legs, though he did manage to back Matthysse off for a moment late in the round. The respite, however, was brief, and in the fifth, Matthysse, Buenos Aires, Argentina, proved much too strong. Soto, now a more stationary target, was forced to try and clinch at times to slow the action, only to get banged around by short shots in close.

A hard right hand started the finishing sequence, followed by another right, a left, and a final right that sent Soto, Tijuana, Baja Clifornia, Mexico, crashing along the ropes. Although Soto managed to climb off the deck, he never looked completely steady, and after being walked to his corner after the bell, his seconds wisely called an end to the fight.

Topics: Humberto Soto, Josesito Lopez, Lucas Matthysse, Saul Alvarez, VICTOR ORTIZ

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  • jet79

    Hi AF,
    This was good stuff.
    The salvaged card turned out to be the best one I’ve attended. And every fighter on the card, including the unfairly maligned Ortiz, can thank themselves for that. By the third round Soto looked like a guy who knew it wasn’t going to end well for him. But he never stopped throwing vicious combination, even as Matthysse walked through them, landing crunching blows. That fight had me out of my seat.
    I can’t help but feel bad for Ortiz, who was verbally abused long after the final bell. The rabbit punch was vintage Victor, but it looks like he endured some punishment despite wanting to pack it in. That made for a wonderful fight, and an exciting finish. And how many people fight through a broken jaw?
    Hopefully Lopez gets what he’s earned, and Ortiz, who’s been anything but boring, does too (in whatever arena that may be).
    @SledSkillz raised an interesting point today: both Soto and Ortiz ended on their stools, bot only the latter is being criticized for it. That speaks to both the importance of a career of noble comportment, and the maliciousness of fans, I think. Soto had nothing to apologize for (he was out at the end of the last round), but neither does Ortiz. Alas, Ortiz hasn’t built up the goodwill needed to think about his future responsibly and not be lambasted.
    Finally, if/when Ortiz returns, he might consider finding someone else to train him. He’s a fragile dude, and he needs somebody less willing to subject him to punishment to help rebuild him.

  • Andrew Fruman

     @jet79  Hey JT.  That must have been a fantastic card to attend live.  Those five rounds of Soto-Matthysse were as packed with action as any we’ll see all year, and the main-event far surpassed all expectations.
     
    In any other sport, fans accept injuries with no issue, and understand it’s part of the game, yet with fighters, there’s a strange expectation that they endure and get on with it.  Easier said than done, especially from the safety of one’s stadium seat or living room.  While Ortiz didn’t deliver on expectations, he certainly didn’t shrink from combat, and some of the post-fight reaction on Twitter and the various forums has been quite unfair and cruel.  As you say, it does also speak to the importance of the reputation one has cultivated for themselves, and in the case of Ortiz, there’s a feeling of… “Oh, geez, what’s he doing now…”  But in this case, all he did was call it a night after suffering a rough injury, and there’s no shame in that.

  • scottchristianson4

    Great weekend of action, just what the boxing doctor ordered. The way Danny Garcia handled the corner was Garcia-esq. He should know his fighter at this stage and should have stopped it after Rd 9 when Victor was clearly mentally checked out. Trainers need to look out for these guys more. I can’t recall a fighter begging out of a fight for the entire minute between rds. Good read sir, and that @sledskillz guy sounds like a genius.
    Scott C

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey Andrew,
     
    Good stuff, definitely one of the better cards of the year.  Matthysse’s probably the guy I’d like to see again the most – he’s durable as hell, bring guaranteed action, and is one of my favorite body punchers in boxing right now.  A scrap with Alvarado would be perfect. 
     
    The fractures in Ortiz’ jaw are apparently pretty severe, so he shouldn’t get maligned for checking out.  His postfight interviews after each of these incidents really don’t do him any favors though.

  • thenonpareil

    Hi AF, 
    welcome back to contemporary boxing!  
    This was great win for Lopez, who’s been grinding it out for almost a decade.  I thought he was a tough guy going in, but I was amazed that he stood up to so many Ortiz bombs.  Ortiz is not a great fighter, but one thing he can do is crack.  Lopez looked like an artificial welterweight, but somehow he absorbed big punches from a guy who probably weighed over 160 pounds. Lopez is not a world-class fighter–you know how it is; one decent win and the Comments Creatures go crazy–he reaches with his jab, leans over his lead foot, and throws wide punches, but he does work the body well, has a good uppercut and, most important of all, is fun to watch in the ring.  No one runs around watching Andre Ward or Chad Dawson replays, but they’ll watch Lopez-Ortiz again, guaranteed! 
    Any talk about Ortiz quitting is the usual forum barking and Twitter tripe.  He was forced to ambush Jack Reiss because Danny Garcia wouldn’t stop the fight for him.  In fact, Garcia can be seen blocking Ortiz as he tries to get to Reiss.  
    I’ve poked some fun at Lucas Matthysse’s technique in the past, but the man is destructive.  Even in his two losses, he scored knockdowns.  He’s a danger to anyone who steps in the ring against him.  Again, another guy you watch whenever he’s on TV.  Boxing is about drama and excitement, and all four guys provided that on Saturday night in a card I didn’t think much of when it was first announced.  
     

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    AF,
     
    The stuff about Ortiz quitting is a bit much. But he doesn’t do himself any favors and he carries some baggage. I’d probably be a lot easier on him if I wasn’t tired of hearing about how after being born he was put into a 20oz boxing glove and cast adrift on the Colorado River only to be recovered by a guy who traded him for 2 cases of Keystone Light, which facilitated his entry into the Robert Garcia Caveman Academy and all that. But, one way or the other he does manage to entertain and that’s gotta count for something. That was a fun fight to watch, and full credit to Lopez, he stood up to some big shots…….that must’ve been just a bit discouraging for Ortiz.
     
    If only Ortiz’ corner had done their job and saved him in the Maidana fight, I doubt anyone questions his heart after this one.

  • Andrew Fruman

     @JohnPaulFutbol Hey JPF, you won’t get any arguments from me on Ortiz not helping his cause. When he turned the Mayweather fight into fun and games at the nut house, he pretty much lost the trust of the paying customer.

  • Andrew Fruman

     @thenonpareil Thanks CA, it’s been awhile since I’ve written about anything that took place within the last 50 years!
     
    I was also surprised that Lopez stood up so well.  There was a moment when I thought he was really starting to lose steam, but I think I was just assuming that Ortiz, being much bigger, was doing more damage than he was.  I agree that he’s not a star, though right now there aren’t too many truly top fighters at 140, and I think he would have a solid shot against many of the current top 10.
     
    I’m a Matthysse fan.  Yeah, his technique is lacking, but man, does he fire away at the body with some mean intentions.  Looking forward to seeing him in there again soon.

  • Andrew Fruman

     @Michael Nelson Hey Michael, agree on Matthysse.  He also seems to have learned from the mistake he made against Judah, when he seemed to really take an overly patient approach early.  I still thought he clearly won that fight, but had he fought with more intensity from the opening bell, he wouldn’t have had to worry about the cards.  On Saturday night, he was coming hard from the get go.

  • Andrew Fruman

    Thanks Scott.  Regarding Garcia’s work in the corner… I’m hesitant to be *too* critical, as I don’t know their full history.  Perhaps Ortiz has a habit during training camp, etc, of taking it easy when the going gets rough – or maybe saying he’s hurt, when he’s not, and Garcia has had to really push him to stay at it.  We’ve all seen plenty of corners act irresponsibly, so I realize I might be reaching with this, but the same way many fans doubted the seriousness of the injury, Garcia may have doubted it too… and felt he owed it to his fighter to get Ortiz through, what Garcia may have felt was just a loss of self belief, and not a serious injury.